Unified Interface – What does it mean for me?

The face of Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement is changing with the introduction of buildable Unified Interface apps. But what’s happening and why would you consider it?

As discussed in a previous post you can create hubs or apps for Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement in the latest releases, hereby referred to as the Unified Interface. You can find my earlier post on this here; What’s the Hub-bub? Create Dynamics 365 Apps for your business – fresh from the Business Applications Summit here are some of the updates I can share (though not exhaustive).

The Unified Interface can provide a responsive user experience for Model Driven Apps, allowing access to rich visualizations with custom controls, based on a consistent and responsive UI – be it web or mobile. Built on modular app based functionality sets that are aligned to PowerApps.

“Accessibility” is the keyword for the direction of the Unified Interface and its associated road map.

We have already established that using an app built-in the Unified Interface allows us to only show users parts of Dynamics that are important to them – which has been an age-old problem for many. Using a specific site map we can add entities, process flows, views and dashboard.

One of the key things for administrators is the ability to move away from the “vertical scroll” which was enforced with the release of Dynamics CRM 2013 (collective cheering from users) and produce forms that promote data and content “above the fold” – much more suited to most devices and use cases.

Some of the topics covered at the Business Applications Summit 2018 included;

Refreshed Capability: Grid visualizations in a list view has been added along with;

  • Custom Control for grids (think calendar view) and lists
  • Semantic zoom – jump to tabs and views making navigation on a mobile device
  • PCF control for Reference Panels (on per form), and add sub-grids, quick view forms and web resources
  • Timeline Control introduced to replace the activity list, along with filtering capability.
  • Responsive design – scaled responsively for devices allowing a consistent experience
  • Additional Chart types – Donut and Tag charts for the UI
  • Task Flows – take a user through a data entry/updated process for a mobile device based on task flows which are assembled like a Business Process Flow (BPFs also supported)
  • Grouping and Filtering of grid views (list views)

Extensibility: You can provide custom visualizations using a rich API, with extensibility to be provided on building custom frameworks.  Previous form restrictions for mobile – 75 fields and 10 sub-grid tabs have been removed. Which is perfect for a consistent user experience.

Mind the Gaps: Currently there are gaps between capability/functionality available in the Unified Interface vs. the Web Client, those items not currently included in the Unified Interface highlighted are as follows…

  • Advanced Find
  • Bulk Edit
  • Merge Records
  • Record Sharing
  • Personal Options
  • Creating a Personal View
  • Creating Email Templates with Dynamic Slugs
  • Composite Address Fields
  • Personal Charts and Dashboards
  • Chart Drill Down
  • Trigger/Run Workflows
  • Chart Control for Sub-grids (Chart only option)
  • Create/Edit Duplicate Detection Jobs
  • Admin settings/experience

Hybrid Client Use: Hybrid Experiences are used for functionality not yet compatible with the Unified Interface, this relies on the classic web UI, but navigates you back to the Unified Interface when selecting records to avoid “leak” to the classic client. The Hybrid experience is to be “opt in – opt out” in your system settings.

Microsoft are committed to updates using the hybrid release approach, the indication is at the time of writing;

Hybrid Use (from Aug 2018)

  • Advance Find
  • Record Sharing
  • Bulk Edit
  • Merge Records
  • Personal Settings

Hybrid Use (from October 2018)

  • Run SSRS Reports
  • Personal Dashboards and charts

SidebySideUI

Unified Interface by Default: All current Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement instances running version 9.0 are able to run a side by side experience. In coming releases side by side is to be switched off.

New customers to Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement will be on-boarded with Unified Interface as default in coming releases (post August 2018).

Scenarios for new customers

The good news for existing customers is that the use of the classic or web client can be phased out, as the functionality/capability gaps are closed. Microsoft will be examining their telemetry data for the platform to understand when it is feasible to end the life-cycle for the classic web UI.

Making the Switch:

The switch to the Unified Interface does not need to be immediate and there is a high level road map for the transition between a hybrid experience and a full Unified Interface experience for Dynamics 365.

UI_roadmap

So the “why” at this point for administrators is that eventually the classic web UI will be phased out in future releases, though not a hard stop, it is necessary to plan roll-outs based on the user roles and functionality they need. Some will be easier than others.

From an end-user point of view, well the experience is better; it offers that consistent experience across devices, easy to find data, easier to navigate – easier on the eye! 🙂 and allows forms that make use of custom controls and traditional components.

You can create a version of Dynamics 365 that is much simpler and much more tailored to the roles in your organization. Along with the themed branding it can feel more like a custom app created for your organization.

From a system’s perspective it is worth embracing the change and making sure that you can phase the roll-out with sufficient planning and testing time. The Unified Interface is also used for anyone developing modular driven apps (second party) and the Common Data Service.

Microsoft are encouraging users and the community to contact the product team to help fine tune the roll-out based on the adoption of current functionality here; unifiedfeedback@microsoft.com or go to the ideas portal for anything new.

There is more on the roadmap for Dynamics 365 here; https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/business-applications-release-notes/october18/

You can’t fight the future right? Have fun and happy app making!

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